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  • Opioid abuse has made thousands of Americans

  • incapable of caring for their children,

  • and that has drawn attention to grandparents,

  • many of whom are receiving the same phone call

  • from child protective services or law enforcement...

  • When you get the call and there’s never been a

  • formal removal, the options are going to be:

  • come get the kids or they are going into foster care”.

  • My ex-husband that received the call because

  • they knew I was at work and they did call me

  • to inform me: ‘What should we do?’ "

  • When they get that call

  • and decide to raise their grandchild,

  • they become a new kind of caregiver,

  • “I mean at that stage, I was already raised

  • my own children and now you have to start all over.”

  • No longer a typical grandparent, but not a parent either.

  • We are the ones who hear the crying at night.

  • We're the ones that go to the schools

  • when they have Mother’s Day events,

  • but yet we're grandma.

  • How about Father’s Day?

  • Well, I could make a mustache and put on a hat and go.

  • Well, I did whatever I had to do.

  • Whatever I had to do!”

  • There’s actually a name for this: it's called "Kinship Care"

  • It’s a type of child-raising that has always existed,

  • but it is becoming more common.

  • For over twenty years, Jerry Wallace has been

  • advocating for kinship caregivers in New York State.

  • Sometimes even bringing his pet dog Cookie with him.

  • "Yeah?"

  • "No! Cookie you gotta go!"

  • "I'll put her right out."

  • He was recently in Rockland County,

  • visiting caregivers at a monthly support group.

  • When parents aren’t there anymore

  • death, you know, tragedies or what not

  • relatives have stepped in and raised children.

  • In non-relative foster care, the government places

  • places a child with a family and provides

  • services that include legal assistance,

  • financial benefits, and case management.

  • But in kinship care, the situation can be different.

  • If they receive a call, the relative has to make a choice:

  • Become a licensed foster parent,

  • which is calledformal kinship”,

  • or volunteer to raise the child on their own without

  • official custody in what's known as "informal kinship".

  • In the US,

  • around 130,000 children live in formal kinship,

  • and nearly 2.5 million live in informal kinship care.

  • Those who choose to participate in the foster care

  • system have access to government services.

  • But that can include regular visits from

  • child protective services,

  • court appearances,

  • or mandated caregiver training,

  • all of which can be disruptive

  • for the child and the grandparents.

  • So, many people opt for an informal kinship,

  • which has less official involvement but also

  • limits access to resources that can help raise the child.

  • Unlike most foster parents,

  • informal kinship caregivers can have trouble

  • enrolling kids in schools

  • and accessing medical services and other benefits

  • because they may lack legal custody of the children.

  • Kinship families might not have access

  • to typical foster care services,

  • but there are a few programs that offer help.

  • Like the child-only grant:

  • a temporary assistance benefit that

  • provides a small amount of money

  • to help care for the child.

  • "Youre taking children into your home that

  • you didn't anticipate having,

  • and all of a sudden, you have a kid

  • who needs school supplies, he needs sneakers --

  • I constantly hear about sneakers

  • and the cost of sneakers."

  • The problem is, there’s no easy way

  • to find out about that help.

  • If you don’t go the foster care route

  • and youre on your own,

  • it's the luck of the draw whether you're even

  • going to find out that there are services.

  • Maybe youre one grandma who said to me:

  • 'Child protective services gave me my grandchild

  • eight years ago,

  • this is the first time I’ve found out there’s help.'

  • So that’s just because there hasn’t been

  • the procedural mechanisms to make sure

  • that it didn’t happen.”

  • The Rockland County support group helps

  • bridge that gap.

  • Once a month, they meet at

  • Volunteer Counseling Service, where

  • Rosa Serrano-Delgado is the program director.

  • When I was hired in this position about

  • I think it was, maybe, 12 years now,

  • I had never heard of the termkinship’.

  • I really had never heard of the termkinship’.”

  • What you would you have needed?

  • What would have been helpful to you

  • you know, as you are entering this journey

  • of raising these children.?”

  • "It is due to the pandemic, the opioid pandemic

  • that we have here and many people are...

  • Knows somebody that has lost a loved one."

  • This population, of families raising a relative’s child,

  • were lacking support.

  • Everyone else seemed to have something in place,

  • but not these kinship families.”

  • But even if caregivers are made

  • fully aware of their options,

  • they still might avoid formal kinship

  • because of the approval process.

  • Sometimes the concern is,

  • I am older, I’m not making a lot of money,

  • So how is this going to affect the way they view me?

  • Are they going to see me as capable?

  • Am I physically capable of raising this child

  • or these children.

  • Do I have enough resources?

  • The other stigma that I’ve heard,

  • which is really interesting, is that

  • they are afraid that people

  • might judge them because obviously something

  • has happened with your child,

  • that they're not able to care for their own child,

  • So what kind of parent were you?”

  • Kinship caregivers can feel isolated

  • and that’s where these support groups come in

  • They really feel that they are amongst a group

  • of people that really get them,

  • that really understand them,

  • that they can really be honest with."

  • You know, 'Why is grandma raising the child?’

  • and, ‘Where are the parents?’

  • And, well, don’t question it so much,

  • we all have different situations at hand.”

  • “I tried counseling, the emotional stuff,

  • which still is visible at times.”

  • Absolutely.

  • That’s a big one: emotional, right?

  • Sometimes they believe that youre keeping

  • my dad or my mom away from me.

  • You know?

  • 'You did something to keep mom or dad away from me!' ”

  • And sometimes the parent is angry at you

  • because youre caring for the child, is that correct

  • Right!

  • Groups like these are providing crucial support to

  • kinship families in communities across America.

  • In New York, Jerry runs a website and hotline

  • that points kinship caregivers towards

  • local, state, and federal services.

  • Like Rosa’s support group in Rockland County.

  • Were keeping kids out of foster care

  • because they can go live with their families.

  • That doesn’t mean we should abandon those families.

  • We should provide them the minimal supports

  • they need to really help these kids

  • have good outcomes.”

  • There is also a financial benefit to kinship care.

  • In a recent report, a grandparents advocacy group

  • estimated that kinship care saves taxpayers $4 billion

  • every year by keeping children out of foster care.

  • In spite of the benefits, kinship caregivers continue

  • to struggle in a fragmented system.

  • What really needs to be done, is

  • every state needs a specialized kinship program

  • with the outreach dollars to reach down in

  • the community and the coordination with the

  • other service systems so that they are aware of them,

  • so that these families are contacted.

  • Whether it’s the education system,

  • mental health services, or the courts,

  • they should all be pointing these families to someone

  • who knows what to tell them about resources

  • and about their rights.”

Opioid abuse has made thousands of Americans

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The opioid crisis is making grandparents become parents again

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    陳思源 posted on 2017/12/08
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